Antarctic Penguins Counted in Satellite Census

Moscow, Apr 14 (IANS/RIA Novosti): A satellite census has revealed that the population of emperor penguin in Antarctic was twice as much as earlier estimated, an article in the PLoS ONE magazine said.

A group of scientists led by Peter Fretwell of the British Antarctic Survey used Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery to count the birds that prefer to nest in remote areas with harsh weather conditions.

"We… provide a population estimate of approximately 238,000 breeding pairs (compared with the last previously published count of 135,000-175,000 pairs)," the article reads.

"Based on published values of the relationship between breeders and non-breeders, this translates to a total population of approximately 595,000 adult birds."

"This study gives us that baseline population, which is quite surprising because it's twice as many as we thought, but it also gives us the ability to follow their progress to see if that population is changing over time," Fretwell told BBC News.

Another partner in the study, Michelle LaRue from the University of Minnesota, praised penguin counting method as "an enormous step forward in Antarctic ecology".

"The implications for this study are far-reaching. We now have a cost-effective way to apply our methods to other poorly understood species in the Antarctic," she said. "We can conduct research safely and efficiently with little environmental impact."

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